Piece By Piece: A Reflection On Osamu Tezuka And The Upcoming Dororo Anime

by Tito W. James

One famous film director (whose name escapes me) once said that we only make one movie. Once the film is finished, we break it into pieces and then make it again. The idea of a mono-myth made from the parts of the stories that came before is perfectly epitomized in the works of Osamu Tezuka.

The birth of Astro Boy

Known in Japan as the “God of Manga,” American audiences mostly recognize Tezuka as the creator of Astro Boy. This classic SciFi manga is about a boy who, after dying in a self-driving car accident, was rebuilt as the super-powered android Astro Boy.

Black Jack operating on Pinoko

The theme of characters being reassembled in Frankenstein fashion continued in Tezuka’s mature medical drama, Black Jack. This manga is a personal favorite of mine and follows a shady surgeon named Black Jack, who is stitched back together after a near fatal injury. Black Jack also has an assistant named Pinoko (which may be a play on Pinocchio), who’s a girl Black Jack assembled from the remains of an unborn twin.

Hyakimaru and Dororo

Tezuka had a habit of reusing character archetypes for his designs as if they were actors playing multiple roles in different films. The archetype of the hero reborn in an artificial body continued in Dororo. When a power-hungry warlord sacrifices his son’s body parts to forty-eight demons, the child is rebuilt in a new body made from wood and ceramics. Now as a wayward warrior, known as Hyakimaru, he must slay the demons who stole his true flesh. Hyakimaru is equipped with hidden blades in his prosthetic arms and for every demon he slays, a real piece of his body grows back. Accompanying Hyakimaru on his journey is a child pick-pocket named Dororo.

The Dororo manga is one of Tezuka’s finest works. The action is well-paced and choreographed. The plot sends our protagonists against creatures from Japanese folklore as well as the true horrors of warfare. While I adore the manga, it’s not without its flaws. The series ended before Hyakimaru slew all forty-eight demons. The plot also took an unnecessary detour when Hyakimaru and Dororo searched for a lost treasure chest that turned out to be empty. Dororo may be the title character but Hyakimaru is vastly more interesting; the kid can also be quite annoying at times.

All that being said, I am immensely excited for the new anime series. From the trailer it looks to be mature, action-packed and respectful of the source material. If the Dororo anime creators manage to capture the spirit of the manga while avoiding its pitfalls, then we will have a stellar anime series for 2019.

Key visual for new Dororo anime

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